Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Greatest Woman In The World…

…doesn’t really look so remarkable actually. As a matter of fact, you could see her on the streets everyday and just pass her by.

She isn’t tall at all -- she could even be called short, coming up to a height of roughly 5 feet 2 inches, plus or minus a few inches depending on the hairdo she dons at the moment. She is a bit on the plump side though her weight also does fluctuate depending on her well-being. Considering that most of the problems in her life are almost over now, she should weigh in at her most impressive size in quite a while.

Her face is plain in that beautiful way that plain can sometimes be and the gentility visible on it is reflected in her demeanour and how she carries herself. If the world had much more of her, then the world would surely be a very peaceful place to live in. But do not be deceived by her simple looks into thinking that her life has been anything but easy-sailing because beneath the face of a lamb lies the heart of a lioness. This woman was born fighting.

Right from even her Primary school days growing up in Aba, this daughter of one of the most celebrated goldsmiths in the South-East was always known as a fighter. Despite her puny frame, she could take on any bully twice her size and still emerge victorious. So vicious was her attack that once, the parents of a fellow classmate of hers strongly refused to believe that the tiny runt summoned in their presence to the Headmistress’ office for punishment had actually been the one responsible for beating their daughter to pulp. Till they went to their graves, they were still convinced their daughter had been attacked by a wild animal and the school authorities had decided to cover up the incident by laying the blame on one of the tiniest students.

I do not know if this incident was responsible for her parents sending her to a girls’ school run by Reverend Sisters but I do know that the transfer did achieve its desired results except for the few moments when the fiery temper would occasionally flare up. However, by the time she entered into the Teacher Training College, she had completely mellowed into a very desirable spinster renowned as one of the youngest and most-liked Headmistresses in that area. Before that time, she was certain that only 2 paths lay ahead of her. She would either go into the convent and become a Reverend Sister or she would meet and marry Mr. Wonderful and together with her awesomeness, they would raise the most wonderful children in the world.

Then the Civil War came and things were no longer the same as they were. Her well-to-do family had to flee the shell-ravaged town of Aba several steps ahead of the Federal troops who would still later invade the village they had fled to. For 2 years she and her loved ones struggled to survive, always on the run, convinced that each day might be their last. It broke her heart to see her brothers roaming about in the bush looking to scavenge anything for their family to eat (a process called bush-combing) while avoiding conscription or certain death from the bombers that circled overhead.

It made her sad to see her father, once a very popular philanthropist whose clients brought gold from all around the country for him to fashion into jewelry that became collectors’ items now reduced to almost a nobody while his various houses were seized or destroyed in Aba (till now her family was never able to reclaim any of his property. Several tenants who stayed behind would eventually illegally take over the property as theirs in the aftermath of the war). His slowly-impaired eyesight and worsening health conditions didn’t help situations either.

And then the big blow came after she lost her elder sister to an air-raid when a shell exploded on their house. Rather than sympathise with them, the villagers did an about-face and accused her family of creating a trail for the Federal troops to track and attack them all the way from Aba. Hearing their taunts of “Serves you people right”, it seemed as if life had administered its final coup de grace.

By the time she met him, the fight had all but gone from her spirit but with the perseverance, charm and grace with which he wooed her, she became slowly convinced that maybe Life still had its merits despite the bleakness that surrounded her.

She thought she could dream again but it was not to be. Six kids, two miscarriages, countless occasions of adultery on his part and 24 years later and it turned out that Mr. Wonderful’s dark past which the rumour-mongers had always whispered of to her in the dark corners (and which she had vehemently refused to listen to) had become revealed in the starkest of lights for her and everyone to see.

It took all of those 24 years but the fire was reignited in her heart and this time she let it burn from her very soul, cleansing her from the pretences and guilt of the past. Despite her strict Catholic upbringing, she took him to the courts and before the church and got a separation from her marriage. Mr. Wonderful was all too happy to see her and her wretched children go since after all, he had been itching all these years to start a new family with one of his numerous concubines. He even went as far as alleging that his wife of 20-plus years wanted to poison him since he now had money -- an allegation that further convinced the judge and church to grant the separation.

As she looked at the ruins of her marriage, her six children some of them in various stages of University education and her pensioner status, she must have felt like she did during the war. She didn’t give up though. It was time for yet another new beginning.

She became the Principal of a private secondary school, she farmed, she traded in everything under the sun, she joined Co-operatives, she borrowed loans and repaid them till one by one all her children had completed school. When she heard the stories of her ex-husband’s rising profile, she must have cried herself to sleep sometimes. What had all their years of struggling to raise a family been for when she was the one toiling while he kept another woman happy with his new-found wealth?

This woman is still a fighter despite the fact that situations have never been kind to her, especially death. She has nursed and cared for her mother, her younger sister and a son all of them in various stages of ill-health at different times. She has stayed up for countless nights praying for them to get well and she has watched as the cold hands of Death has taken them one by one. She has plan and organised their funerals.

Even till today, as she’s just starting to enjoy the fruits of her labour, she’s still doing a nursing course overseas rather than sit at home, eat and watch TV. She can revel in the luxuries of her children’s homes, she can watch over and play with her grandchildren but her fire still burns on as if she still has a lot to do. Her quest for service to God and humanity still keeps her occupied.
She turned 64 a few days ago and as I look back at some of the battles she has faced and emerged victorious, I can only hope that when I turn 64 myself, I will be content in the fact that I - like she did- could still raise 5 wonderful children despite the trials and tribulations I face along the way.

The greatest woman in the world isn’t much to look at really but I am glad everyday that I know her.

She’s my mom…

PS: I’m sorry about the lenght of these things, I really am! I know Jinta said I made him dizzy last time but it’s just that this is my subconscious talking and when I started I didn’t know I’d just go on and on…

Pardon me, my subconscious just doesn’t know how to summarize that’s all!


  1. ur mum will be really proud of u if she ever gets to read this

  2. @ Funms: Thanks, but I don't think she will... I wrote a poem for her once on her birthday and she never got to see that too. I dunno but I always think they aren't really good enough for her...


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